One of the smuggled reptiles
One of the lizards saved by Dutch authorities Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority

Three Spanish nationals have been arrested at Amsterdam's Schipol airport after their luggage was found stuffed with 259 reptiles. The animals were crushed into four suitcases – when officials made the discovery 10 had already died.

Dutch authorities believe that the three arrested had flown in from Mexico and were headed to Spain in an attempt to smuggle the animals. Many of the reptiles being transported were protected species and included 14 San Esteban chuckwalla lizards, which are only found on the Mexican Island of San Esteban.

The accused were arrested on 3 September and are being held by the Dutch Food Safety Authority and Dutch Customs. Authorities said the animals would be transferred to a suitable shelter.

The three have been accused of not having the correct permits to transport the animals, as well as animal cruelty. The trade of protected species is international regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITIES).

Dutch authorities said that should the three have reached Spain, the market value of the smuggled creatures, said to have included snakes, lizards and tortoises, would have been around ‎€80,000 (£67,000). Pictures released by the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority showed x-ray images of the suitcase where reptiles can be seen crammed inside.

Reptiles stuffed in a suitcase
The reptiles are seen stuffed in a suitcase on a baggage scanner Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority